Pasta with Butter (and Mustard Greens and Shiitake) is What Kids Eat


I’ll admit I don’t know a lot about kids, so I may have gotten the moral of this story painfully wrong. But I was recently in the company of some children who taught me a lesson about pasta. It’s a lesson I’ve incorporated into this recipe for Bucatini Pasta with Butter, Mustard Greens and Shiitake Mushrooms.

Cooking advice from children is not something I’m used to accepting (or even listening to). In fact, in my opinion, kids today eat horrendously. I’m not talking about sugary sweets. Kids have always eaten horrendous amounts of sugary sweets (and always will).

Nope, the kind of horrendous eating habit I mean is when the youngest, least refined palate in the group dictates what the rest of us eat. When I was a kid, children ate what was served or they didn’t eat at all (with a few admitted exceptions). Simple, right?

Well, apparently it’s no longer so simple. When it comes to dining a lot of parents cede control to the kids. I was recently with one such family.

Imagine me, happily composing a salad of abstract tastes and textures for a poolside lunch on a warm holiday weekend when one of the kids comes into the kitchen and says: “What are we having for lunch?”

Being the smart aleck that I am, I just assume that this kid has to be kidding me. After all, it’s lunchtime and I’m in the kitchen making a salad. So I take a moment to conjure up the perfect (kid friendly) snarky retort. Just as I’m ready to let loose my verbal alacrity in runs the mother ticking off a list of all the ingredients in this salad that “kids won’t eat”. She doesn’t say that her kids won’t eat these things. She says it like all kids won’t eat these things. Like I said what I don’t know about kids could fill a stadium, but I do know that good eating habits (as well as good manners) start at the top of the family hierarchy.

But it was a lovely afternoon and I decided to keep things lovely. So rather than say what I was thinking I asked her: “What will kids eat?”

“Pasta with butter” was her reply.

Well that’s not so bad, I thought to myself. I could work with that.

Pasta with Butter

After all pasta with butter is a great jumping-off point for many of the best creamy pasta sauces. Notice I said “jumping-off point”. To the horror of the mother I added shiitake mushrooms and fresh mustard greens to this simple pasta with butter. I may have decided to let the kids guide me in the making of this pasta, but I wasn’t going to lob a knob of butter into hot noodles and be done with it. When I was a kid, good eating habits started with the art of eating around the things you didn’t like. After a while you might even start to like them (wow I sound like my mother). GREG

pasta with butter

Bucatini with Mustard Greens and Shiitake Mushrooms 

Print This Recipe Total time Yield 4Source Inspired by Michael ChiarelloPublished

This would be wonderful with morels mushrooms as well.



  • 4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
  • 5 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (plus more as needed)
  • 7 ounce shiitake mushrooms (brushed clean and roughly chopped)
  • coarse salt and pepper (as needed for seasoning and pasta water)
  • 3 clove garlic (peeled and minced)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
  • ½ teaspoon anise seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 4 cup roughly chopped, packed mustard greens (may substitute spinach or chard, cooking times will vary)
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoon chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 pound dried bucatini (or other strand pasta)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (divided)


Place the chicken stock in a large saucepan set over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then lower the heat, letting the stock reduce by half; set aside.

Heat 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) olive oil in a large saute pan set over medium-high heat. Once the oil begins to shimmer add the mushrooms in as close to a single layer as possible. Let them cook without moving them until lightly browned on one side, about 2 minutes. Stir the mushrooms and saute them, stirring occasionally until brown all over, about 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic and a touch more oil if necessary. Cook stirring often until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the rosemary, anise seeds, red pepper flakes and reduced chicken stock; bring to a boil. Add greens; seasoning them as needed. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook until tender, about 5 more minutes. Stir in the butter and parsley; set aside.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente, about 12 minutes, depending on the pasta you choose. Drain the pasta (reserving about ½ cup of the water) then return the pasta to the pot. Add the greens mixture and ½ cup grated Parmesan, folding to incorporate. Adjust consistency with the reserved pasta water as needed. Pour onto a heated serving platter, garnish with remaining ½ cup cheese and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.